Sumter School District is not only in the process of replacing its superintendent, but it will soon also have openings for its second-in-command administrator and chief financial officer.
The changes come as Summerville-based Dorchester School District 2 announced Thursday it hired Brenda Hafner, chief of schools in Sumter, as deputy superintendent, and Lexington School District 1 announced Friday that Jennifer Miller will be its new chief financial officer. Both Hafner and Miller's new positions begin July 1, according to news releases.
Hafner joined Sumter School District in February 2018 as an assistant superintendent under then-interim superintendent Debbie Hamm. When current superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox came to Sumter in July 2019, Hafner's position was changed to chief of schools, serving as second in command in the school district.
Hafner was in the news in March when a split Sumter school board voted 5-4 on Feb. 28 for her to serve as acting superintendent after they, in the same vote, told Martin-Knox to leave her post with prorated pay four months before her contract ended.
Roughly three weeks later, on March 25, a state circuit court judge ruled in a civil lawsuit that the vote by the school board be declared invalid because it was not on the agenda. The ruling prohibited implementation of the actions involved in the vote. Following the court order, the board had to reinstate Martin-Knox to fill her contract term and did so on March 29 with Hafner moving back into the chief of schools' post. Martin-Knox had asked for the board to not extend her contract into next school year. When it ends on June 30, she will begin as superintendent near Kansas City, Missouri.
Hafner has been a finalist for three superintendent positions in the last three years, including Dorchester School District 2 this spring. That position went to Kershaw County School District Superintendent Shane Robbins last month.
In 2021, Hafner was a finalist for the top position in Newberry County School District and in 2020 was a finalist in Lexington School District 2.
Miller became the local district's CFO in July 2018 and has been instrumental in helping to build the district's fund balance to $32.6 million through fiscal year 2021. That is a level at which it has never been before, and it comes after the 2016 audit showed the district's fund balance at $106,449, revealing millions in overspending.
The superintendent who was in charge of the district amid that overspending, Frank Baker, was elected to an at-large school board seat in November 2018 after retiring the year before.
Miller has been an accounting professional for 21 years and graduated from University of South Carolina in 2001 with a triple major in accounting, finance and insurance and risk management. She became a certified public accountant in 2004.
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